Rolex Yacht-Master vs. Daytona: Wristwatch Comparison

If you’re in the market for a high-end watch and you’ve settled on the Rolex Yacht-Master or the Rolex Daytona, the reality is that you can’t go wrong—both are backed by the trusted Rolex brand, after all. Nevertheless, each series of watches includes select options and unique features that might give you the edge you’re looking for. From reviewing the specifications and highlights of each watch, on the whole, I prefer the Yacht-Master series—specifically the original Yacht-Master collection (we’ll get to that)—to the Daytona line, on account of its slim, sleek contour and (to-be-expected) reliability. That said, there is much to recommend the later Yacht-Master II and the Daytona, and if you are primarily looking to fill a technical, functional need with your watch purchase, then the original Yacht-Master, the simplest of the three, may not be the best choice.

First things first, choosing a watch from the Rolex line means several certainties: you know you’re getting a reliable and durable chronograph, you know you’re adding a stylish piece of apparel to your wardrobe, and you know that every time you put it on, you’ll have wandering eyes fixated in envy on your classic timepiece.

But this isn’t a decision to take lightly. It’s an expensive investment, and not all watches—even high-end ones—are made equally. In this case, it isn’t just a question of “Are you a sailor (Yacht-Master) or a racer (Daytona)?” The Daytona series has a design optimized for measuring high speeds, while the Yacht-Master provides additional timekeeping functions the likes of which you might find handy during a regatta. Let’s take a closer look at all they can do.

The Rolex Yacht-Master: The Watch of the Open Seas

Official Description

The Rolex Yacht-Master and Yacht-Master II models embody the spirit of the sailor. Inspired by the rich heritage that has bound Rolex to the world of sailing since the 1950s, the Yacht-Master blends function and style, while the Yacht-Master II brings together the finest in Rolex technology to create a regatta chronograph built for yachting competition.

Summary

As the description notes, choosing the Yacht-Master series means making another choice: the original Yacht-Master (debuted in 1992), or the Yacht-Master II (first released in 2007).

The Yacht-Master

The headline model of the Yacht-Master series is the Yacht-Master 40, though Rolex also released a slightly smaller option, the Yacht-Master 37. For the purpose of this review, I will focus on the headline model, but both the 40mm and the 37mm options can be configured to the buyer’s preference in terms of material, color, and dial type.

Specifications

  • Model Case: Oyster, 40mm, 18 ct Everose gold
  • Oyster Architecture: Monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown
  • Bezel: Bidirectional rotatable 60-minute graduated bezel with matt black Cerachrom insert in ceramic, polished raised numerals and graduations
  • Winding Crown: Screw-down, Triplock triple waterproofness system
  • Crystal: Scratch-resistant sapphire, Cyclops lens over the date
  • Water-Resistance: Waterproof to 100 meters / 330 feet
  • Movement: Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding
  • Calibre: 3135, Manufacture Rolex
  • Precision: -2/+2 sec/day, after casing
  • Functions: Centre hour, minute and seconds hands. Instantaneous date with rapid setting. Stop-seconds for precise time setting
  • Power Reserve: Approximately 48 hours
  • Bracelet: Oysterflex: Flexible metal blades over-molded with high-performance elastomer
  • Clasp: Folding Oysterlock safety clasp
  • Dial: Black, with highly legible Chromalight display with long-lasting blue luminescence

Review

The headline model, reference number 116655, is designed with an Everose gold trim, a black watch-face, and the Rolex patented rubber Oyster strap, the first rubber strap on any model of Rolex watch. The Oysterflex strap, branded as a sporty alternative to the typical metal strap, is also hypoallergenic, so allay any concerns you may have in that regard.

The design, though uncommon, is not unbecoming.  It matches the aesthetic of the chic watch face well, and in fact, the slim style of the rubber strap carries its own elegance that matches the rather svelte original Yacht-Master.  Practically, it has the advantage of ease of use and even more ease in cleaning, should it get muddy or slimy while you bandy about the wet rigging of your sailboat, as the absence of metal links eliminates a natural trap for dirt or otherwise.

The primary unique feature of the watch–the bi-directional rotatable bezel for recording time (when sailing between two buoys, for example)–is a distinct advantage to those who intend to put their watch to the practical test beyond merely keeping time.  Whether you’re on the high seas or cooking steak in the backyard, any reason to leave your phone untouched (in this case, for the timer), and to put your new Yacht-Master to use, is a good reason.

The original Yacht-Master is an integral watch in the Rolex collection, and the headliner, Everose gold with black Oyster strap, will set you apart as a connoisseur in the timekeeping world.  Whether the occasion calls for formal business attire, or if you’re stretched out on the boat for the weekend, your Yacht-Master will strike the right tone.

The Yacht-Master II

Don’t take the release of a second series of Yacht-Master watches as an indication that the first series didn’t make the grade.  That said, if you opt for the newer option, you will be rewarded with several new features.  Again, this review will focus on the headline watch, reference number 116680, a 44mm watch with a steel plate, but as always Rolex gives you the option to customize your selection.

Specifications

  • Model Case: Oyster, 44mm, 904L steel
  • Oyster Architecture: Monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown
  • Bezel: Bidirectional rotatable Ring Command bezel. Blue Cerachrom insert in ceramic, engraved numerals and inscription
  • Winding Crown: Screw-down, Triplock triple waterproofness system
  • Crystal: Scratch-resistant sapphire
  • Water-Resistance: Waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet
  • Movement: Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding, regatta chronograph
  • Calibre: 4161, Manufacture Rolex
  • Precision: -2/+2 sec/day, after casing
  • Functions: Centre hour and minute hands, small seconds hand at 6 o’clock. Programmable countdown with mechanical memory and on-the-fly synchronization. Stop-seconds for precise time setting
  • Power Reserve: Approximately 72 hours
  • Bracelet: Oysterflex, flat three-piece links of 904L steel
  • Clasp: Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with Easylink 5mm comfort extension
  • Dial: White, with highly legible Chromalight display with long-lasting blue luminescence

Review

Let’s start with two mechanical/functional differences from the original Yacht-Master, and we’ll consider the stylistic changes second.  Both watches offer a perpetual, self-winding movement, but this newer watch adds to that the regatta chronograph, a programmable counter for up to ten minutes, ideal for timing the starting sequence of a regatta.  Rolex touts this innovation as the product of nearly 35,000 hours of development, resulting in a complex mechanism that uses some 360 parts.

As a result, Rolex produced one of the first watches with a bezel synchronized to the movement of the watch itself.  The timer can be locked into place beforehand, and the wearer simply toggles the knob on the side of the watch to start, or synchronize the timer with the watch. The new Yacht-Master also has a battery life of approximately 72 hours, compared with the 48 hours of the original.

As for the physical appearance of the Yacht-Master II, the most notable difference is its size, which is 44mm across the face rather than 40mm like the original.  This is a minor difference, but when the watch is clasped around your wrist–which, presumably, it will be–the difference is noticeable, as those additional few millimeters more or less cover the skin that otherwise remains exposed with the original watch.

The additional space also allows for a slightly more embellished watch-face on the Yacht-Master II, most notably the inclusion of a small seconds hand at 6 o’clock.  The additional features do give the impression of a bulkier watch, and really it will be a matter of taste if you prefer the larger or small dimensions.  For my taste, I prefer the slimmer cut.

Finally, the newer Yacht-Master is designed with a metal clasp, rather than the innovative rubber strap of the original.  The metal clasp can be extended by 5mm for comfort.  This is a more classic look for high-end watches, though the rubber strap is far from inelegant, and I have already given the reasons why it adds merit to the Yacht-Master, especially for anyone intending to put the watch to its semi-aquatic intended use.  That said, either watch can be adjusted and configured to your preference of a rubber or metal clasp, so neither watch takes the advantage in this regard.

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona: The Ultimate Chronograph

Official Description

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona, introduced in 1963, was designed to meet the demands of professional racing drivers. With its highly reliable chronograph and bezel with tachymetric scale, it allows drivers to perfectly measure average speeds up to 400 kilometres or miles per hour, as they choose. An icon eternally joined in name and function to the high‑performance world of motor sport.

Summary

The Rolex Cosmograph Daytona is one of the classic timepieces of the Rolex brand.  Its durability and lasting favor speak for themselves, as does the lifetime endorsement of Paul Newman, who supposedly wore his original Cosmograph Daytona every day from 1972 until his death in 2008.  This review will look at the 116503 model, but, again, the watch components can be configured to the buyer’s demand.

Specifications

  • Model Case: Oyster, 40mm, Yellow Rolesor – combination 904L steel and 18 ct yellow gold
  • Oyster Architecture: Monobloc middle case, screw-down case back and winding crown
  • Bezel: Fixed, with engraved tachymetric scale, in 18 ct yellow gold
  • Winding Crown: Screw-down, Triplock triple waterproofness system
  • Crystal: Scratch-resistant sapphire
  • Water-Resistance: Waterproof to 100 metres / 330 feet
  • Movement: Perpetual, mechanical, self-winding
  • Calibre: 4130, Manufacture Rolex
  • Precision: -2/+2 sec/day, after casing
  • Functions: Centre hour, minute and seconds hands, small seconds hand at 6 o’clock. Chronograph (centre hand) accurate to within 1/8 of a second, 30-minute counter at 3 o’clock and 12-hour counter at 9 o’clock. Stop seconds for precise time setting
  • Power Reserve: Approximately 72 hours
  • Bracelet: Oyster, flat three-piece links
  • Clasp: Folding Oysterlock safety clasp with Easylink 5mm comfort extension
  • Dial: Black, with snailed small counters

Review

The feature most obvious when observing the Daytona watch is the presence of three small timers inside the main watch face.  The Daytona is designed for the speedsters of the world, and that means it is precise to the ultimate degree.  The middle counter, positioned at 6 o’clock, is the second hand; the counter on the right records minutes lapsed; and the counter on the left records hours lapsed.  Seconds can be measured to 1/8th of a second.

On the circumference of the watch face the dials used for the timing mechanisms are designed to screw down into the mechanism when not in use to ensure the timepiece remains waterproof.  When they are in use, they are designed to be perfectly waited to respond to the wearer’s instantaneous pressure, so as to maximize accuracy in recording matters of great precision, like lap times.

Stylistically, the watch stands up to its reputation.  Despite all the counters and features  readily and intuitively available at a glance, the watch face manages to maintain a clean countenance all within a 40mm width.  There are no excess tics or trivialities.  Everything about the watch is designed for maximum efficiency.  And in that delicate push-and-pull between efficiency and style, Rolex settled on the balance you see on the Daytona watch that has enabled it to survive over half a century as a symbol for quality and elegance.  There is little to dislike in this timepiece.

Conclusions

Any time you’re deciding between high-end watches, a large part of the decision will simply come down to personal preference.  Neither the Yacht-Master nor the Cosmographer Daytona will disappoint when it comes to performance, and they’re guaranteed to impress when it comes to style.  With that in mind, if you are looking for a watch that will fulfill a specific function beyond simple timekeeping–that is to say if you are a car enthusiast looking for a watch primed to measure and calculate speeds, or if you need a watch worthy of your own sea legs, or what have you–then your best value will be whichever watch is designed to most closely match your needs.

But sometimes you don’t need a watch suited for high speed road racing or that can perfect your regatta race.  Sometimes you need a watch that will set you apart at the office and with your clients.  Sometimes you need a watch that will turn heads around town.  Sometimes you just need a watch.  And for my money, if you’ve narrowed your search down to the Yacht-Master and the Daytona: go with the original Yacht-Master.  It’s slim, it’s slick, it’s simple, and in simplicity there is beauty.  The more sober the statement, the bolder the claim.

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